IF the cost of heating bills means you're struggling to stay warm this winter, help is out there.

Dorset Community Foundation is offering grants of £200 to those aged over 50 as part of its Surviving Winter Appeal.

The appeal aims to tackle fuel poverty, and the foundation is urging people in need to contact their local Citizens Advice Bureau or get in touch with the Centre for Sustainable Energy to receive a one-off payment of up to £200. The winter fuel grants will pay for anything to do with the winter – bills, contributions towards new boilers and even hot meals, insulation or clothing.

Jon Yates, chief executive of the foundation, said: "With the recent drop in temperatures, and as many older people in fuel poverty might be struggling with their bills post-Christmas, this one-off support offers an essential lifeline. Many local older people are at risk and even die because of the combined effects of fuel poverty and social isolation. This year, because of the phenomenal support we have received from local residents and their unwanted winter fuel allowances, we are lowering the age range to cover local residents aged over 50 who meet the winter fuel poverty criteria, have significant health conditions, are on the highest level of benefits and have little current chance of improving life circumstances."

The life-saving appeal initially started six years ago in response to shocking statistics of winter mortality amongst older people in the county.

An average of 520 people were dying because of the cold every winter.

The appeal recycles unwanted winter fuel allowances from local residents and has raised more than £65,000 this year.

To contact the Citizens Advice Network, which disperses grants to people across Dorset, call 01929 775500.

If you are a in need of some help or advice, contact the Centre for Sustainable Energy on 0300 003 7023.

Since November, the two organisations have paid 120 grants.

To donate to the appeal, or for more information, visit www.dorsetcommunityfoundation.org.